In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), thought, memory, and the mind are influenced by all five of the energetic elemental systems referred to as the Five Elements, or Five Phases, that encompass all mental-spiritual aspects of human beings. Therefore, understanding the nature of memory-loss or blocks in thought requires a dissection of the symptoms or patterns that
present in each individual. However, the Mind, or Shen of TCM oversees memory, thinking, consciousness, insight, and is always indicated in issues of memory and conscious thought.
Aging and Memory-Loss
As we age we naturally become more and more Essence depleted, and Essence is the substance base of the mind. The Shen, Spleen, and Kidney energies are together responsible for our ability to memorize words, dates, names, and times. Tonic herbs work to re-inforce these energetic organ systems as we age.
Heart and the Mind (Shen)
Clear thinking depends on a strong Heart according to TCM. The Heart stores the evolving consciousness, or Shen, and emotional disorders of the mind are attributed to Shen disorders. The Heart houses the mind at night, and Heart imbalances can lead to or contribute to sleep disorders. Heart Blood is also important as a grounding substance for the mind, so Heart Blood Deficiency has an impact on sleep and emotional balance. The Shen is also responsible for our ideas that are projected through thoughts that gives our life purpose. The Heart, or Shen, is the only organ able to provide insights to our emotions, as the other organs cannot perceive emotional feelings.
Spleen and the Mind (Shen)
The Spleen stores knowledge, or Zhi, and ideation, or Yi. It is association with thinking, ideas, and studying, and can be damaged by too much study or work that requires concentration or intense intellectual work. If the Spleen is damaged, one may find she obsesses and re-hashes the same thought pattern over and over. If Spleen Qi Deficiency develops, Internal Dampness can develop creating a feeling of a foggy mind as Dampness blocks the free flow of Qi. While modern-day life gives us ample to worry about, excessive worry will damage the Spleen function and Heart.
Kidney and the Mind (Shen)
The Kidneys share the power of decision making with the Liver, as they house the Essence, or Jing, which is responsible for our acquired wisdom through life (along with the Shen). One cannot plan and make wise decisions without reflecting on past experiences and acquired knowledge. Additionally, the Kidney energetic organ system is responsible for our willpower, and one who lacks will cannot be decisive. If the Kidney is deficient, there is often fear, anxiety, and panic disorders. The Kidneys also assist the Mind in recollections of memory.
Liver and the Mind (Shen)
The Liver stores the primitive memories, or Po, and the subconscious or the Hun; it houses the intelligence of the cells, or our instinctual memories. The Liver empowers us to plan and envision our future. When the Liver Qi is not flowing well and generates Heat, the Liver impacts our wisdom and we can become destructive. Additionally, Liver Heat and Stagnation greatly affect the mind creating anger, frustration, and a feeling of dissatisfaction. Ongoing emotional stress can lead to Liver Qi Stagnation and agitation.
Deficient-Excess Patterns of the Mind
Another way to delineate patterns of thought would be through Deficiency and Excess. Someone who tends to suffer from Deficient patterns would forget words, pictures, or dates and would not be able to learn through rote memory and would learn better with association. Someone who had generally Excess imbalances would tend to talk a lot, quoting sources for facts and figures. In extreme cases, they would have a tendency to take credit for others work and distort the truth.
Indecisiveness-Cunning with lack of ethics
While organ-level imbalances can cause emotional imbalances, the opposite is true as strong emotions can damage the organs. Emotions associated to individual organs include: Lungs and grief; Kidneys and fear; Liver and anger; Heart and sadness; Spleen and worry. All strong emotions will impact the Heart. Ancestral Qi, or a genetic/familial disposition to an organ imbalance or emotional disposition is also a causative factor in thinking and the Mind.